BETHESDA, Md., May 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday unveiled new requirements for food labels, changing the way per-serving and overall health content information is listed to better reflect more recent research and government recommendations on healthy eating.
The new labels, which will not be required for use until 2018 to allow companies to adjust to changes, were debuted by first lady Michelle Obama during the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit in Washington, D.C.
The nutritional labels consumers rely on to know how much salt, sugar, fat and other vitamins, minerals and substances are in their food, and the percentage of recommended daily intake those values represent, have not changed since their introduction in 1993.
In that time, the government has updated its nutritional guidelines for Americans several times, including the most recent update released in January.
"For more than 20 years, Americans have relied on the Nutrition Facts label as a leading source of information regarding calories, fat and other nutrients to help them understand more about the foods they eat in a day," Dr. Robert Califf, commissioner of the FDA, said in a press release. "The updated label makes improvements to this valuable resource so consumers can make more informed food choices -- one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity."
The new labels feature larger, bolder type for serving size and calorie information at the top of the label, with daily intake labels updated to include both the number of grams in the product and percent of daily value for sugar, salt, vitamin D, potassium, calcium and iron.
Vitamins A and C will now be voluntarily included on labels, rather than required, because deficiencies of them are rare. The new labels also eliminate "calories from fat" because the type of fat contained in a food is more important than overall calories, leaving a breakdown of "total fat," saturated fat" and "trans fat" still required on all labels.
The agency is giving food manufacturers with more than $10 million in annual food sales until July 26, 2018, to update all labels, with smaller companies given an extra year to meet the new requirements.
"I am thrilled that the FDA has finalized a new and improved Nutrition Facts label that will be on food products nationwide," Obama said in a press release. "This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices."